The French spirits group Pernod Ricard is increasingly relying on hydrogen for the energy needed to produce glass for its “Absolut Vodka” bottles. The initiative by “The Absolut Company” is an important milestone towards becoming completely CO2 neutral by 2030. Overall, the climate issue is becoming increasingly important in the sustainability strategies of brand owners – and thus the entire value chain. Packaging suppliers should also become active. After all, those who can help achieve CO2 targets increase their chances of retaining existing customers and acquiring new ones.
Absolut Vodka will be one of the first global spirits brands to switch to a partially hydrogen energy-fired glass furnace for large-scale production in the manufacture of its bottles. The brand has reached an agreement with a glass supplier to this effect.
Deliveries from the furnace will start in the second half of 2023. The switch is comprehensive, as The Absolut Company plans to convert all Absolut vodka bottles worldwide to the “new glass.”
Hydrogen instead of natural gas and electricity
Currently, the supplier still uses a combination of natural gas and electricity to power its furnaces. With the launch of the pilot project, 20 percent of the natural gas will then be replaced by green hydrogen. The hydrogen will be produced on-site at the supplier’s facility using electricity from renewable sources.
Hydrogen and footprint
The hydrogen initiative is an important milestone for Absolut Vodka to become completely CO2 neutral by 2030. This goal cannot be achieved without reducing the carbon footprint of glass packaging. By using hydrogen in glass production, the brand could reduce its footprint by 20 percent.
Further steps towards the climate target
The move toward hydrogen as an energy source is just one building block in Absolut Vodka’s climate plan. To exploit further potential and reduce CO2 emissions, the company wants to
- reduce the weight of glass bottles
- increase the share of electricity in the energy mix at the expense of natural gas, and
- use more recycled white glass to increase the current rate of 53 percent.
Emission rights as investments
Absolut Vodka boasts that it already operates one of the most energy-efficient distilleries in the world. It is said to produce 98 percent fewer emissions than an average distillery. According to the company, this has allowed it to build up a surplus of emission rights, the proceeds of which will be invested in the green transformation.
Value chain comes into focus
Stéphanie Durroux, chief executive of The Absolut Company, describes a process of first focusing on its own set screws and now taking it a step further:
- “Because we have been investing in our own production, reducing our emissions and increasing energy efficiency for decades, we are now in a position where we can also focus on the parts of our value chain that are outside or within our own scope. The glass manufacturing industry is on a transformative journey and the world cannot wait for the perfect solution. A bold and innovative approach is needed to accelerate radical change that will help solve the significant sustainability challenges facing all glass manufacturers and glass buyers.”
Opportunities and risks for packaging suppliers
The climate issue is becoming increasingly important. Major brands are among the absolute drivers of this development. They have publicly set climate targets and now have to see how they can meet them. The only way to do that is to reduce their footprint across the entire supply chain.
For packaging suppliers, that means paying even more attention to their energy supply. They need to get the issue sorted.
The development poses risks, but also opportunities. After all, anyone who can help brands with their CO2 targets not only has opportunities when it comes to acquiring new customers. They also have strong arguments for retaining customers in the long term.